Gentrification Promotes Classism

Corporate Profits Over Working Class Residents

By Janelle Norman

The common perception of gentrification is that it increases the quality of living in low-income areas. An influx of middle class residents paying more taxes in effect causes a once impoverished neighborhood to be provided with better city services and more opportunity.

These resources include building renovation, more business and job opportunities, school reform, and lower crime rates. Gentrification has positive outcomes on many residents, however the question that needs to be answered is who exactly is benefiting from these resources.

When discussing gentrification, it’s necessary to acknowledge that displacement is an almost guaranteed part of the process. Private renters use the increase of market value in a neighborhood to add a substantial amount to monthly costs.

In addition to that, federal funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other affordable housing projects decreased 60 percent in the last 25 years. With laws giving more power to the real estate industry and limiting the agency of tenants, displacement becomes an inevitable part of gentrification.

While the cost of living in NYC is rapidly rising, the average salary in the city is decreasing. The median income for NYC residents from 2007-2009 was $54,057. From 2010-2012 the average salary dropped to $50,711.

According to the U.S Census Bureau, the average rent in NYC was $1,125 in 2011. By 2013, the average rent increased to $3,017.

There has also been a decline in successful small NYC businesses in the past few years. The commercialization of gentrifying neighborhoods makes it so that new businesses are often built to attract tourists rather than serve the existing community.

Historically speaking, many of NYC’s entrepreneurs were immigrants who opened businesses that would support their communities culturally and economically. Many of these businesses are failing because of the competition of newer and bigger brands and the expenses of revenue increasing.

Although many economists credit gentrification for lower crime rates, many studies actually show mixed results when it comes to the crime in gentrified areas. For Bed-Stuy and Bushwick, two of the most gentrified areas in NYC, crime is on the rise. The New York Post reported that the number of shooting victims has risen 9.5% this year.

Various studies have suggested that the increasing amount of people in homeless shelters in the most gentrified neighborhoods in NYC can be a result of displacement. The Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH) reported that Bed-Stuy has the second highest rate of homelessness in the city. Between 2005 and 2010, the average rent in Bed-Stuy rose 23 percent.

Another heavily gentrified area is Washington Heights, which had a 28.8 percent increase in average home costs this year. The median home in the Heights went from $420,700 to $541,700, the second largest increase in the city. The ICPH reported that homelessness in Washington Heights increased 26 percent from 2005 to 2010.

There are many ways to get the positive changes of gentrification without having to evict lower income homeowners. The first step is to promote affordable housing by stabilizing the rent of older residents. Establishing inclusionary zoning laws will also decrease this problem. Zoning laws require 10-30 percent of new housing units to be set at affordable rates for low-income tenants.

Community land trusts (CLT) can also improve the state of poor communities. CLTs take real-estate off of the unpredictable market and puts more control in the community. CLTs have been proven to refine community based businesses, affordable housing and non-profit organizations in Sawmill, Albuquerque and Oakland, California.

People assume that there is no solution for rising eviction rates in gentrifying neighborhoods because there is no way to dictate who can relocate to low-income neighborhoods. However, gentrification is not about the wealthy transplants, it’s about how our housing acts work to accommodate them while neglecting the needs of the working class citizens.

Categories: Opinion

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